Pick the best people in the organisation who are able to explain the value of Multichannel and Digital and let them undertake reverse mentoring to the leadership / executive team. The key stakeholders need to be sponsors of the transformation and therefore need to be upskilled and understand the value.
Make sure you identify and deploy the people in your organisation who can best explain the value of the changes you are planning to make. Use them to share their learnings and understanding of the proposed changes to the leadership and the executive team. Don’t expect change from the bottom-up, any business needs to emulate the changes bottom-down, by at least understanding how they can contribute.
If you are hoping to start a revolution you need to get people to believe the message you are delivering and that you are the person/s who can make that change.
The same applies if you want to transform your business. The people within the organisation have to believe that the leadership team understand what they are selling and are willing to emulate the changes being put forward by increasing their knowledge and skill levels to match the effort their staff will have to make. This is especially relevant when planning a digital transformation across a multi-channel business.
So to get full buy-in, collaboration and up-skilling from your leadership team you need others from your business to mentor them. These people could be younger members of staff who have recently joined the company that has a particular skill set or knowledge that’s the perfect pairing to what is wanting to be achieved as part of the transformation.
This training technique is known as reverse mentoring. It’s a technique used to create a professional pairing between an older or more experienced member of staff with a younger, less experienced member of staff. It bridges the gap between generations and organisation levels and fosters idea sharing, collaboration and more diversity.
General Electric’s former CEO, Jack Welch, is credited with introducing a formal reverse mentoring program in 1999 when he ordered 500 of his top managers to find young employees who could teach them about new technologies. At that point, this was the internet.
Of course, there are difficulties involved in creating this reverse mentoring culture. The mentee needs to be willing to listen to younger or less experienced members of staff and treat them as an equal to get the most out of the mentoring. Also, finding the right person who is willing to become a mentor with the right soft skills and confidence to work with an older, more experienced member of the business is key. Another potential issue is making sure any mentoring is planned into their current workloads, as finding people willing to fit in mentoring around their already busy schedule is difficult.
Mentoring should also have boundaries associated with it. Mutual trust, respect and honesty must be evident by both parties. The mentoring should take place on common ground, a shared meeting room for example, not the mentee’s office, and should be at a regular set time. A list of expectations should be drawn up as well as some basic rules around an agreement that both parties want to be a mentor and a mentee and will make the best effort possible to make it work.
If you are asking people to become mentors make sure this is part of a personal development plan and works toward an incentive that benefits them. This could be additional training, a bonus or a paid meal out for them and their partner. This can be especially important to help persuade staff if extra hours are expected of them as part of this process.
The benefits of reverse mentoring can be fantastic for your business, making employees of every level feel valued and can help break down barriers between management level staff and those currently lower down the career ladder. It can also be a step that allows you to evaluate the benefits of a more open organisational structure, with leadership getting a real feel of their staff competencies and trusting their judgement in areas they specialise in.